Toshiba Chromebook 2 (CB30-B-104) review
Processor: Dual-core 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840, RAM: 4GB, Size: 320x214x19mm, Weight: 1.35kg, Screen size: 13.3in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 16GB SSD
Toshiba's first Chromebook was one of last year’s best Google-powered laptops. It was a great-value device with a convenient 13.3in form factor, which gave more room to manoeuvre than an 11in laptop without the added bulk of a 15.6in model. We were happy to see Toshiba keep this formula for the Chromebook 2, but make several important improvements that make it even more desirable - albeit slightly more expensive.
By far the biggest change is the quality of the screen. The low-resolution 1,366x768 display found in almost every Chromebook is gone, replaced by a Full HD 1,920x1080 pixel panel. This makes a huge difference to your ability to multitask; having two windows side by side, one with a document and another with a spreadsheet or web page, is the sort of workflow booster that can't be underestimated. At its current price, the Chromebook 2 is one of the cheapest laptops on the market with a Full HD screen.
Image quality is extremely impressive, with the panel able to display 87.5% of the sRGB colour gamut according to our colour calibrator. This is pretty astonishing for a mid-range laptop, let alone one on sale for under £300. Contrast is also high at 973:1, with reasonably low black levels of 0.39cd/m2. Aside from the £1000+ Chromebook Pixel, this is the best screen we've ever seen on a Chromebook. In real terms, the images served up by the Chromebook 2 are rich and detailed, with plenty of colour and smaller details visible in more subtly shaded images.
Keep in mind that a Full HD screen in such a small chassis results in smaller text that may require you to zoom in if your eyesight isn’t perfect. This may be an annoyance for some users, especially with the web-based applications such as Google Docs, which has fairly small buttons to begin with.
There’s plenty to like about the Chromebook 2 beyond the screen. For starters, Toshiba has cut the weight by 10% from 1.5kg to 1.35kg. It's a small change but carrying it around in one hand is now much more comfortable. It's also very slightly thinner, at 19.3mm thick compared to the original’s 20mm. Toshiba has in turn reduced the number of USB ports from three to two, with a USB3 connector on the right and a slower USB port on the left side. Also present is a full-size HDMI port for connecting to external monitors, and a single 3.5mm audio jack.
It's not a beautiful device by any stretch, although the dotted texture on the lid does add a little design flair. Overall build quality feels good, with little flex when you push hard down on the touchpad. Keyboards are typically Toshiba's weakness, with most laptops stuck with shallow and cramped keys. While the 13.3in form factor means there's plenty of room to manoeuvre, the shallow range of motion from the keys remains a slight issue. We didn't have any problems with missed keystrokes, but we would have liked just a little bit more movement from the keys. The top row of keys has no "F" commands, replaced instead by simple symbols used to control the Chrome OS operating system. Also missing is the Caps lock key, which has been replaced by a search button. Hitting the alt key in conjunction with this button will activate caps lock, though.